How to Start an Espresso Cart Business
Everyone loves the smell of fresh coffee in the morning, and an espresso cart business allows people to get a delicious morning cup of joe while they're on the run. An espresso cart business may choose to operate at different locations each day or may choose one spot to set up shop every morning. An espresso cart business allows a business owner to have full control over their small shop and can provide opportunities to expand in the future.
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Learn how to start your own Espresso Cart Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start an Espresso Cart Business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Espresso Cart Business
- Form your Espresso Cart Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Espresso Cart Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Espresso Cart Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Espresso Cart Business
- Get Espresso Cart Business Insurance
- Define your Espresso Cart Business Brand
- Create your Espresso Cart Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your Espresso Cart Business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening an Espresso Cart Business?
Costs involved in opening an espresso cart business include:
- The espresso cart and espresso machines
- Supplies, including espresso, dairy, sweeteners, and other drink additives
- Disposable cups, stirrers, and napkins
- Payment for a water hookup where the cart will be parked (or payment for a stand-alone water source purchased in advance as needed)
- Payment for a waste removal service to dispose of trash at the end of the day
- Payment for any seller permits needed to operate along the street
What are the ongoing expenses for an Espresso Cart Business?
Ongoing expenses include maintenance of espresso equipment, cost of both food supplies and non-food supplies (such as paper products), payroll, insurance, and maintenance of the cart itself.
Who is the target market?
The target market for an espresso cart business is anyone who enjoys coffee in the morning, but on a smaller scale, anyone who enjoys coffee and happens to pass the location of the espresso cart is a likely customer. Catchy signs, delicious smells, and a welcoming smile can all help people decide to stop at an espresso cart.
How does an Espresso Cart Business make money?
An espresso cart business makes money by charging customers for their drinks. An espresso cart owner may also be asked to provide services at morning events, such as conferences, athletic events, and more.
How much can you charge customers?
It's smart to check the going rates for espresso-based drinks in the area in order to determine pricing. Espresso drinks can run anywhere from $3 to $7, and it's normal to charge more for complex or specialty orders.
How much profit can an Espresso Cart Business make?
The amount of profit an espresso cart can make is highly dependent on its client base and the number of customers purchasing a drink each day. An espresso cart can make between $1,000-$5,000 per day if it's placed in a high-traffic location and is capable of quickly creating quality drinks for customers.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Investing in high-quality equipment and top-notch ingredients can make drinks taste better and can go a long way in keeping customers coming back for more. Like with any small business, if an espresso cart business owner decides to hire employees, it's important that they spend time offering quality training. The better an employee is trained, the more they'll be able to increase the profit margin for the business.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your Espresso Cart Business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market an Espresso Cart Business
Showing up at the same location each day, offering high-quality service, and keeping a positive attitude are the best ways to market an espresso business. Most people don't go searching online for a place to stop and grab a coffee before work — consistently good service is the best way to get people to mention an espresso cart business to their coworkers.
How to keep customers coming back
Solid customer service and a positive attitude are the best way to bring customers to an espresso cart business. Providing customers with a drink that has the same delicious taste every time they ask for it will keep them coming back for more.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.
Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Espresso Cart Business in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
An espresso cart business is right for anyone who enjoys early mornings, loves interacting with people, and has a passion for coffee. Creativity is a plus too — developing new delicious drinks can keep customers coming back, curious about the business owner's latest creation.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at an Espresso Cart Business?
During a typical day at an espresso cart business, a business owner may need to:
- Pull the espresso cart out of storage and transport it to the correct location in the morning
- Load the cart with supplies
- Connect to a water and sewer supply
- Interact with customers, making their favorite drinks
- Provide a payment system (it's smart to offer both cash and card options)
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful Espresso Cart Business?
While knowledge of and passion for espresso are important, people skills are also a must. Espresso cart owners should be able to pleasantly interact with their customers each day, remembering the drinks of regulars and sending customers off with a smile. Espresso cart business owners also need to be able to manage inventory and cash flow.
What is the growth potential for an Espresso Cart Business?
The growth potential is large for an espresso cart business, especially if there is high demand for the espresso and the owner decides to begin to operate multiple carts with employees throughout a city.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting an Espresso Cart Business?
Even though a cart is mobile, businesses like these may need permits to sell on the streets. Check with your local government to ensure that you have the proper permits needed to legally operate your business.
It's important that an espresso cart business owner is able to function well under high levels of stress. When people are rushing to get their morning coffee, they can be short and may not be as pleasant as they would normally be. It's important that an espresso cart owner can continue to serve delicious drinks with a smile.
How and when to build a team
If the line at an espresso cart business becomes unmanageable, it may be time to bring on some additional staff members who can help with the ins and outs of getting customers what they need. Over time, an espresso cart business owner may decide to expand and have multiple carts, each led by a qualified barista.
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